Yoga has always made me mad.
I’m going to hazard a guess that this is a new concept to lots of people, but I know there are a few of you out there who feel the same way. If yoga makes you happy, by all means enjoy, but know that there’s a group of us who don’t feel that way, and I’m going to try and shed a little light on that anger at this calming, purifying and peace-finding practice. It’s my hope that it’ll make the interaction a little easier, since understanding one another tends to do that.
Yoga has always made me intensely, skin-crawlingly mad. Even talking about it can be hard – my back tenses up and my neck gets sore if I have to hear about it for too long, let alone think or talk about it myself. This gets worse when others tell me “Oooh, well what kinds have you tried? You should try more kinds.” I’ll admit, I haven’t tried all the yogas, but nor do I want to. For me it’s like saying, “no, I don’t like licorice” and being given a bunch of different licorice treats and told that the key to my bliss will be accepting and forcing myself to enjoy at least one of them. Um, no, it isn’t. I get that you love it, but I don’t, so please respect my decisions.
Rather than simply raging against the yoga, I decided to examine my visceral hatred of it to shed light on it for myself, and to help others see a new perspective on something they might love. I find it’s always helpful when a minority or simply different stance is explained clearly. That way we can be more understanding of one another, and perhaps some day people will stop telling me that yoga will cure all my ills.
When I examined my anger about yoga, I noticed some common themes in what I haven’t liked about it. While not EVERY class has all of these (I’d be silly to assume that) these are some things I noticed:
- I hate being lightly touched, particularly by people I barley know. I find it gross and invasive, and as them using a part of my body for a demonstration. I’m not active in the experience.
- I hate being told to rest or be calm. I will feel how I feel and will not be calmed because someone says I should be. I feel calm naturally after creating things, doing things, or by observing things. I do not feel calm at a forced rest.
- I hate being coddled. Being told that everyone is doing well always smacks of insincerity to me. Not everyone is doing a good job, and since I know that it, I know it could be me not doing a good job, and how can I fix it if my coach won’t do me the courtesy of instructing?
- I hate the holier-than-thou crap that many yoga-loving peeps slip into. Again, this definitely isn’t everyone. But if I have to hear one more time about how fresh blood in the thighs after a stretch or a greeting the new day with a pose set has brought them (and will by necessity bring me) ultimate fulfilling love in the universe, I’m going to puke a medicine ball.
- I resent the idea that inconvenient emotions are pent up in my body and meant to be flushed away. Feeling anger is something we are designed to experience, and working with the causes can lead to better outcomes. I will not be told to let me anger flow from my breath when my anger teaches and motivates me to do good in the world. This also has something to do with my embracing emotions women are socialized not to feel and definitely not to express (When I am angry, I am not ‘upset.’ I have not tipped over, I am experiencing rage).
There was only one time I did yoga and didn’t hate it, and that’s because it was handled completely differently and not even called yoga – I found out later that the movements were derived from yoga.
I took a martial arts class for several months that focused on kung fu and increasing agility more than strength or speed. Before each class we would warm up – warm ups consisted of stretches, exercises, and circuits across the floor of motions. I liked class and warm ups because:
- The movements were action, rather than stillness, oriented
- The stretches were preparation for a work out, and were therefore clearly useful
- The guide was a coach who would point out “hey, your stretch is all messed up. Move your foot more like this, you should feel it in this part of your leg” in simple declarative ways (no one babied me or held my hand or said changing my stretch would release energy)
- There was almost no corrective touching, and if it was needed, the coach would demonstrate the correct motion, and ask you to self correct before helping you correct
- Motions that involved contact were guided, deliberate, and fully participatory by both sides. I felt like I was interacting with a definite something, or preparing to. I was training and working towards something, not trying to rest and put aside my feelings.
- The goals in the class were based in the physical realm – you had to feel your balance, find your center of gravity, study your partner’s motions, etc. I was not asked to feel things in any place besides my physical body, and this was both fun, liberating, and very focused.
I had to be told later that the stretches technically were yoga poses, and I barely believed it. No one had asked me to be at peace, or guided me in a meditation, or weakly guided me closer to a correct pose. Instead, I was able to engage with the material, practice interaction, energize myself and deliberately engage with others in a straightforward manner.
So, no, yoga is not for everyone, and many of us knew that already. Please keep in mind that those tools and choices you make to bring yourself joy do not work for everyone. Please respect that not all people want to embrace calmness or yoga classes. Instructing them to do something counter to what they know in their heart to be the right call for them is disrespectful and narrow-minded, and we’re not about that kind of crap. I’d say share your joys with one another, but don’t try to convert others. At least, don’t try to convert me.
I like that we’re all seeking life in a happier world where we are focused and clear. But lets give one another some room, since we’re not all taking the same road to get there.